The Walking Dead has aired its last episode of 2018 with last Sunday’s mid-season finale, “Evolution,” which officially unveiled new enemy group the Whisperers and killed off Jesus (Tom Payne).
When Season Nine returns with new episodes on AMC Sundays in February, its back eight will feature scripts and stories that Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus promises are “even better” than the preceding eight-episode run.
“They’re f—ing epic, you know, and they’re just crushing and they’re severe, all of them. The show’s morphing into something else but it’s got the heart and the feel of the original show, there’s just new life breathing through it,” Reedus told Deadline.
The Walking Dead has held steady despite losing two of its biggest players in Rick Grimes star Andrew Lincoln and Maggie Rhee star Lauren Cohan, who were able to escape the series alive: Lincoln’s Rick is off the mothership series for good but will next headline a trilogy of television movies while showrunner Angela Kang preps Cohan’s Maggie return in Season Ten.
Airing its most critically lauded episodes in years, even without its longtime lead in Lincoln, The Walking Dead has taken advantage of its fresh start and performed a near-complete overhaul: a six-year time jump has brought with it new mysteries as well as new characters, including Magna (Nadia Hilkes), Luke (Dan Fogler), and Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who are swiftly proving fan-favorites, alongside an increased presence for supporting players Henry (Matt Lintz) and former Savior D.J. (Matt Mangum).
Also in store for the back half are comic book heavyweights Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst), the most famous — and most dangerous — of the Whisperers clan, who can be spotted in the first footage from Season Nine. As teased by Hurst on Twitter, the Whisperers bring with them a hefty bodycount as The Walking Dead’s most dangerous threat ever continues to emerge.
“Let me say this, Andy’s been on set since he’s left but he’s like, ‘you know, this show, it’s the best it’s ever been.’ He’s like, ‘I’m kind of bummed, it’s f— amazing right now,’ you know? And the truth is, it is. It got better. The band got tighter,” Reedus told Deadline, adding “the show’s the best it’s ever been.”
When Season Nine resumes, it will bring with it answers about the feud between Alexandria leader Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the Hilltop, which will now see the leadership baton passed to Tara (Alanna Masterson) following Maggie’s departure and Jesus’ death. A freshly escaped Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) will have a bigger role to play in the back eight after the series made a conscious decision to use the jailed former Savior leader less frequently following his domination of the narrative the past two seasons.
“I’m really excited about the cast we have. Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst as Alpha and Beta,” King told ComicBook.com when previewing the back half of the season.
“I just think they brought so much energy and intensity already to the process, like in such a great way. And I think we get to tell a bit of a story that is sort of a mystery. I think in many ways they’re the most formidable group that we’ve come across because they have the power of zombies behind them. So that’s something that I’m really excited for people to see.”
The Walking Dead Season Nine returns Sunday, February 10 at 9/8c on AMC.